Between May 11-22, KHON2’s Wake Up 2day and Living808 are airing a special series from the Island of Hawaii. Kathy Muneno went exploring and found the joys of a staycation on Hawaii’s largest island.
At Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, just outside Kona International Airport, seahorses are born every morning right before sunrise.
Owner Carol Cozzi-Schmarr says the farm breeds close to 25 different endangered species of seahorses “which makes us the largest living gene bank of live seahorses in the world.”
The farm offers educational tours “so we can educate the public about the beauty of the seahorse and get them inspired to help keep our reefs like they were 50 years ago,” Cozzi-Schmarr said.
Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm breeds seahorses locally, but don’t expect to take one home as a pet. The farm only sells its seahorses to buyers on the mainland.
“These particular animals originated from Florida, so we only sell them to the mainland,” Cozzi-Schmarr said. “We don’t want people releasing Floridian seahorses here in in our Hawaiian waters.”
The farm also breeds both species of endangered Hawaiian seahorses and Cozzi-Schmarr says they’re healthy and well.
The best part of the tour, according to Cozzi-Schmarr, is when visitors can actually hold a seahorse by dipping their hand into the water and letting the seahorse wrap his or her tail around a finger.
Kathy Muneno got to hold Lava, a five-year-old female seahorse. “She’s really friendly. She likes people,” Cozzi-Schmarr said.
While the actual lifespan of a seahorse is largely unknown, Cozzi-Schmarr says seahorses on the farm can live more than 15 years “so we’re still discovering how long they actually live.”
The seahorse is the only animal in existence where the male gets pregnant and gives birth.
When mating, the female will deposit her eggs into the male’s pouch. The male then fertilizes the eggs internally and holds the babies in his pouch for 30 days.
“Then he will start to go into labor. It’s actually a live birth,” Cozzi-Schmarr explained. “He will pump out up to 2,000 babies at once. If you think that’s a lot, try this. After two minutes of rest, she will re-impregnate him with another batch of eggs… This poor male seahorse is basically home, barefoot and pregnant for his entire life.”
Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm is located at 73-4388 Ilikai Place in Kona.